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Students rally to aid Haiti relief efforts

ST. IGNATIUS — Little more than week after a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, the city at the heart of one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, St. Ignatius Elementary students have joined what the Red Cross says may be the largest relief effort in the organization’s history.

Second through fourth-grade students in TEA (Targeted Enrichment Activities) classes sponsored by Susan Batiuchok and speech teacher Roberta Haynes put their chef hats on and baked dozens of cookies, Rice Krispies treats, brownies and muffins to sell during lunch periods in the cafeteria. In just two days, the group raised $682 for the Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund. 

“It’s just been overwhelming,” Batiuchok said of the response from school staff and students of all ages. “We’ve had marvelous donations from the staff.”

The cooks made muffins, and several staff members gave children money to spend on the treats, in addition to spending their free time manning the register at the sale. 

“We had help from everywhere,” Batiuchok noted.

She and Haynes let the students decide whether to donate to a UNICEF aid fund or the Red Cross, which opened the door for the kids to learn about both organizations. They seemed to make an informed decision, she said, ultimately voting to give to the Red Cross because several have family members who support the Red Cross. Putting the choice in the kids’ hands also helped them take ownership of the project, Batiuchok added.

The whole experience was a valuable one for the kids, who are excited to know that even 50 cents for a cookie can help provide food, water and medicine and perhaps even save a life in Haiti. They’ve also gained some understanding of the magnitude of the disaster — Batiuchok explained to her students that the estimated total of 200,000 earthquake victims translates roughly to one in five Montanans suddenly dying. 

Of course, such a cataclysmic event is even more impacting in a poverty-ridden nation like Haiti, and Batiuchok said her hope is that after the initial surge of donations is over, people continue to contribute to aid efforts for a long time to come.

“This country needed help before the earthquake,” she said.

Donations to the Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund can be made online at www.redcross.org or on your mobile phone by texting “HAITI” to 90999, which will add a $10 donation to your phone bill.

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